Interim Head of Composition Oliver Searle introduces PLUG 2021

For the last 15 years, PLUG Festival has been a celebration of exciting new music and this year is no exception. The 2021 festival contains new work from 31 students, with over 60 new pieces presented for free until 30 August. We asked Interim Head of Composition Oliver Searle to introduce the 2021 festival, and some of the amazing performers and composers involved.


In what has been another exceptional year for the arts and education, it is more important than ever for us to be able to celebrate the diversity of new work created by our composers here at the RCS.

This year, a number of external ensembles and performers joined us, leading workshops online, then rehearsing and recording to a composers-only audience to bring you these performances for our online PLUG festival.

We were very pleased to welcome back GAIA, as well as the percussion duo of Calum Huggan and Angela Wai Nok Hui, alumnus Fraser Langton (to work on a programme of new works for solo clarinet by our Year 1 composers), Red Note, and some of our in-house ensembles: MusicLab, and RCS Brass.

Two musicians seated on the floor playing gongs.
XO composed by Gillian Walker and performed by Calum Huggan and Angela Wai Nok Hui.

New to PLUG this year was the voice/flute duo of Ruth Morley and Laura Bowler (performing new works from composers on our Masters programme), and our new Studio Collective run by violinist and RCS Associate Artist Daniel Pioro. We also began a Composers’ Ensemble this session, with our composers performing each other’s new, open-score and graphic-score works, developed through collaborations with the whole group.

An ensemble of musicians spread across a stage.
w/delay composed by Joe Strike and performed by the Composers Ensemble.

We have faced many (perhaps, all) of the challenges presented to arts organisations over the course of the last year, and students and staff at the RCS have shown huge resilience in adapting their working practices to continue to create and support the development of the new work that is available for your viewing this month.

Huge thanks – as ever – must go to our fantastic Artistic Planning department, as well as all the performers involved in this project, all of our Composition staff, all of the Heads of Department, and all the technical support staff.

Thank you for listening/viewing, and please do come and join us for some live, new music in person when you can!


PLUG 2021 will run from 2-30 August. Watch for free now.

Composition is deeply integrated into the music programmes at RCS, with lots of opportunities for budding composers to collaborate with musicians, dancers, performers and filmmakers. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in composition, take a look at our BMus (Composition) and MMus (Composition) courses.

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